Small businesses thrive after adjusting to pandemic – Maryland matters

Jacqueline Kuntzman, Latoya Thomas and Allie Rose Mitrovich have used social media to expand their businesses during the pandemic. Screenshot.

Jacqueline Kuntzman plans to continue the candle and soap making business she started during the pandemic on social media after things start to reopen.

The full-time college student and mother of two has relied on popular social media apps like Tik Tok to gain clients over the past year.

The pandemic has accelerated the trend of online shopping that previously existed, said Roland Rust, executive director of the Center for Excellence and Service at the Smith School of Business at the University of Maryland.

“We are in an environment where a substantial percentage of purchases will be done online and that will probably always be true,” said Rust.

Tik Tok also helped Kuntzman meet other small business owners, who support and buy from each other, she said.

Ninety percent of consumers will buy products from a brand they follow on social media, according to a 2020 study by software company Sprout Social Inc.

All smart business goes where people are and, during the pandemic, they weren’t walking the streets, Rust said.

“There’s no way to market your business except through social media,” said Kuntzman, who has shipped his products internationally.

Last March, Allie Rose Mitrovich launched her sticker business and began posting videos of the creation process on Tik Tok.

The majority of his early sales came from one of his Tik Tok videos, which went viral and racked up over 2.4 million views.

Social media is the perfect business response to restrictions imposed by the pandemic, said Johan Ferreira, visiting professor of marketing at the George Washington University School of Business.

And social media platforms are making consumers aware of small business products, while the costs are cheaper than hosting events or creating TV ads, he said.

According to a 2021 report from Hootsuite, a social media management platform, Tik Tok is the second largest social media app for consumer spending. The Tinder social dating app was the first.

Whether it’s a mom-pop boutique or someone baking cakes in the kitchen, every business today needs to be digital, said Philippe Duverger, director of graduate programs in marketing intelligence. and interactive marketing at Towson University.

“For everyone [the pandemic] gave the opportunity to try new things and accelerate the penetration of habits and services, ”said Duverger. “The game is played online.”

Latoya Thomas opened his Instagram account before the pandemic, using it primarily for personal purposes. However, since the start of the pandemic, Thomas has dedicated his account strictly to business.

Everyone is selling something on Instagram, she said.

The real estate broker and owner of the small business was diagnosed with lupus early in the COVID-19 pandemic and feared he was around people.

Social media was a way for her to continue working without fearing for her life.

Promoting yourself and your business on social media is an area that has exploded during the pandemic, said Gil Appel, assistant professor of marketing at the George Washington University School of Business.

People don’t commute, they’re home, and social media was one of the limited ways you could talk to other people, Appel said.

“I don’t touch anyone sitting behind a desk. I need to be on the go, ”said Thomas, who videos with his daughter and follows“ mom groups ”on the app.

Ferreira said there is a general misconception that only the younger generation uses and is comfortable with social media.

Social media platforms have traditionally been geared towards the younger generations, Rust said. However, this is increasingly the case, he said. Rust’s 92-year-old mother is on social media because she wants to know what “the kids” are doing, he says.

Even so, the world of small business social media is not always easy to describe.

Mitrovich said it was difficult to explain what she was doing and the legitimacy of her work.

“Social media is my lifeline, I consider it the biggest part of my job,” Mitrovich said.

The older generation will feel disconnected if they don’t follow along and it will widen the generation gap in how business is run in general, Duverger said.

Even old school industries are adapting to a new online environment.

Ruth Anne Phillips, provides editing and proofreading services in her small business, Turning Prose LLC. During the pandemic, the major publishing houses brought what were typically paper and pen processes online.

Phillips, who is also a lecturer at the University of Maryland, said there is a learning curve for these traditional print publishing houses.

The biggest problem has been the functionality issues with cloud documents, she said; if there are too many marks on a document, it slows down. But sending large manuscripts weighing 10 pounds is not something Phillips thinks he will return to after the pandemic.

“It would feel like a step back,” she said.

Ferreira is hesitant to say if the world will just go online business. What he can confidently say is that social media has become a place of prosperity for businesses.

“This is definitely a real chain for anyone who doubted this was the case before,” Ferreira said.

Born and raised in Annapolis, Natalie Tumbling is a freelance journalist and graduate student at the University of Maryland. She works as an investigative reporter at the Howard Center for Investigative Journalism at the University of Maryland. It can be reached at [email protected]


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